Author Topic: NASA Notifies Congress About Space Station Contract Modification with Russia  (Read 47427 times)

Offline Endeavour_01

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Since when is speaking the truth depressing? It's been a well established fact that the SLS/Orion coalition (as it's being called in the article) has been stone-walling CCP from the get-go to benefit SLS/Orion.

To be sure many in Congress see CCP as a threat to their constituents and districts and don't fully support the program as a result. That is the wrong thing for them to do and it is unfortunate. That said the "CCP" coalition has its own Congressional supporters who act in the exact same way in the opposite direction (think Dana Rohrabacher, Mark Sanford). Obviously there are not as many as in the "SLS/Orion" coalition but they are there. They want to slow roll Deep Space exploration because that money isn't flowing into their districts.

The simple fact is that most Congresspeople will always want to support the industries in their districts over the wellbeing of the country. It's just as true for space related endeavors as for anything else. That's because they are politicians.

As to the article that Proponent posted it makes me sad to see yet another hit piece directed at SLS/Orion. Not only does it hurt our chances to go BLEO for the first time in 40 years but it also hurts CCP. The more that articles like that come out the more the "anti-CCP coalition" believes that they are right to consider CCP a threat. If "CCP people" and "SLS/Orion people" would take a more inclusive tone and support both programs then there is more of a chance that both will get the funding they need to succeed.

Don't forget people that if the next President comes in and decides to cancel SLS/Orion (or CCP for that matter) the most likely scenario is a restart of the status quo. The anti-SLSers just assume that if SLS is canceled all the money will flow into their pet programs. The problem is that if SLS is canceled those Congresspeople who are currently supporting SLS won't go quietly into the night. Even if every argument against SLS was absolutely correct (which is most certainly untrue) the most likely scenario would be that 2010 would happen all over again. We would have to pick up the ashes of the previous PoR and start all over.

I'll get to the substance of the article in another post.
I cheer for both NASA and commercial space. For SLS, Orion, Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy, Dragon, Starliner, Cygnus and all the rest!
I was blessed to see the launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour on STS-99. The launch was beyond amazing. My 8-year old mind was blown. I remember the noise and seeing the exhaust pour out of the shuttle as it lifted off. I remember staring and watching it soar while it was visible in the clear blue sky. It was one of the greatest moments of my life and I will never forget it.

Offline Brovane

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Don't forget people that if the next President comes in and decides to cancel SLS/Orion (or CCP for that matter) the most likely scenario is a restart of the status quo. The anti-SLSers just assume that if SLS is canceled all the money will flow into their pet programs. The problem is that if SLS is canceled those Congresspeople who are currently supporting SLS won't go quietly into the night. Even if every argument against SLS was absolutely correct (which is most certainly untrue) the most likely scenario would be that 2010 would happen all over again. We would have to pick up the ashes of the previous PoR and start all over.

I'll get to the substance of the article in another post.

That might be why Congress keeps cutting back Development funding.  If they can delay the first CCP flights until sometime later in 2017 that means a new President will be in office before the first flights and then maybe they can cancel the entire thing before then.  They can then propose the costly Orion MCPV as the alternative.  If CCP has it's first flights in late 2016, early 2017 then it would be much more difficult proposition to cancel the program after the crew capability is already demonstrated.  Not saying Congress wouldn't try something so stupid but it really does magnify the stupidity of the decision if you already having spacecraft flying. 
"Look at that! If anybody ever said, "you'll be sitting in a spacecraft naked with a 134-pound backpack on your knees charging it", I'd have said "Aw, get serious". - John Young - Apollo-16

Offline woods170

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Don't forget people that if the next President comes in and decides to cancel SLS/Orion (or CCP for that matter) the most likely scenario is a restart of the status quo. The anti-SLSers just assume that if SLS is canceled all the money will flow into their pet programs. The problem is that if SLS is canceled those Congresspeople who are currently supporting SLS won't go quietly into the night. Even if every argument against SLS was absolutely correct (which is most certainly untrue) the most likely scenario would be that 2010 would happen all over again. We would have to pick up the ashes of the previous PoR and start all over.

I'll get to the substance of the article in another post.

That might be why Congress keeps cutting back Development funding.  If they can delay the first CCP flights until sometime later in 2017 that means a new President will be in office before the first flights and then maybe they can cancel the entire thing before then.  They can then propose the costly Orion MCPV as the alternative.  If CCP has it's first flights in late 2016, early 2017 then it would be much more difficult proposition to cancel the program after the crew capability is already demonstrated.  Not saying Congress wouldn't try something so stupid but it really does magnify the stupidity of the decision if you already having spacecraft flying. 

IMO, CCP under a new (presumably Republican) president will not be cancelled outright. It will be forcibly down-selected to their favorite pet-contractor: Boeing. The current administration is likely well-aware of this. Hence the finger-pointing at US Congress for starving CCP of sufficient funding.
« Last Edit: 09/08/2015 07:24 AM by woods170 »

Offline Proponent

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... it makes me sad to see yet another hit piece directed at SLS/Orion....

I'll get to the substance of the article in another post.

Please do address the substance of the text before dismissing it as a hit piece.

Offline Endeavour_01

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... it makes me sad to see yet another hit piece directed at SLS/Orion....

I'll get to the substance of the article in another post.

Please do address the substance of the text before dismissing it as a hit piece.

Sorry Proponent. I have a wife, a life, and quals to study for so I often don't have enough time to say everything I want to on the forum. Rest assured that I will get to the problems in the article when I have time.
I cheer for both NASA and commercial space. For SLS, Orion, Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy, Dragon, Starliner, Cygnus and all the rest!
I was blessed to see the launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour on STS-99. The launch was beyond amazing. My 8-year old mind was blown. I remember the noise and seeing the exhaust pour out of the shuttle as it lifted off. I remember staring and watching it soar while it was visible in the clear blue sky. It was one of the greatest moments of my life and I will never forget it.

Offline Proponent

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Best of luck with the quals!

Offline Brovane

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Don't forget people that if the next President comes in and decides to cancel SLS/Orion (or CCP for that matter) the most likely scenario is a restart of the status quo. The anti-SLSers just assume that if SLS is canceled all the money will flow into their pet programs. The problem is that if SLS is canceled those Congresspeople who are currently supporting SLS won't go quietly into the night. Even if every argument against SLS was absolutely correct (which is most certainly untrue) the most likely scenario would be that 2010 would happen all over again. We would have to pick up the ashes of the previous PoR and start all over.

I'll get to the substance of the article in another post.

That might be why Congress keeps cutting back Development funding.  If they can delay the first CCP flights until sometime later in 2017 that means a new President will be in office before the first flights and then maybe they can cancel the entire thing before then.  They can then propose the costly Orion MCPV as the alternative.  If CCP has it's first flights in late 2016, early 2017 then it would be much more difficult proposition to cancel the program after the crew capability is already demonstrated.  Not saying Congress wouldn't try something so stupid but it really does magnify the stupidity of the decision if you already having spacecraft flying. 

IMO, CCP under a new (presumably Republican) president will not be cancelled outright. It will be forcibly down-selected to their favorite pet-contractor: Boeing. The current administration is likely well-aware of this. Hence the finger-pointing at US Congress for starving CCP of sufficient funding.

Which would be a interesting conversation to play out if both SpaceX and Boeing have demonstrated crew capability and if a down-select occurs to more expensive provider. 
"Look at that! If anybody ever said, "you'll be sitting in a spacecraft naked with a 134-pound backpack on your knees charging it", I'd have said "Aw, get serious". - John Young - Apollo-16

Offline woods170

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Don't forget people that if the next President comes in and decides to cancel SLS/Orion (or CCP for that matter) the most likely scenario is a restart of the status quo. The anti-SLSers just assume that if SLS is canceled all the money will flow into their pet programs. The problem is that if SLS is canceled those Congresspeople who are currently supporting SLS won't go quietly into the night. Even if every argument against SLS was absolutely correct (which is most certainly untrue) the most likely scenario would be that 2010 would happen all over again. We would have to pick up the ashes of the previous PoR and start all over.

I'll get to the substance of the article in another post.

That might be why Congress keeps cutting back Development funding.  If they can delay the first CCP flights until sometime later in 2017 that means a new President will be in office before the first flights and then maybe they can cancel the entire thing before then.  They can then propose the costly Orion MCPV as the alternative.  If CCP has it's first flights in late 2016, early 2017 then it would be much more difficult proposition to cancel the program after the crew capability is already demonstrated.  Not saying Congress wouldn't try something so stupid but it really does magnify the stupidity of the decision if you already having spacecraft flying. 

IMO, CCP under a new (presumably Republican) president will not be cancelled outright. It will be forcibly down-selected to their favorite pet-contractor: Boeing. The current administration is likely well-aware of this. Hence the finger-pointing at US Congress for starving CCP of sufficient funding.

Which would be a interesting conversation to play out if both SpaceX and Boeing have demonstrated crew capability and if a down-select occurs to more expensive provider. 
The government of the USA is not known for being an excellent steward of taxpayer's money.

Offline Coastal Ron

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To be sure many in Congress see CCP as a threat to their constituents and districts and don't fully support the program as a result.

Yet relying on Russia for access to our only foothold in space is not seen as a threat?  Some twisted thinking going on there, or willful ignorance.

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That said the "CCP" coalition has its own Congressional supporters who act in the exact same way in the opposite direction (think Dana Rohrabacher, Mark Sanford).

Although one difference is that without CCP we are beholden to Russia for access to LEO, but without the SLS/Orion we don't have one of a number of options for leaving LEO if Congress approves a BEO program (which it hasn't yet).  The near-term need is CCP obviously, and it has major international security ramifications.

And regardless whether the SLS/Orion is tied to Commercial Crew or not, there is a known requirement for becoming independent of Russia for access to the ISS, so any efforts to slow that down is strengthening Russia's hand internationally.  And Congress already has a large faction that is working on limiting our dependence on Russia, but no such faction that is worried about sending humans beyond Earth's orbit for "exploration".

Clearly from a geopolitical standpoint, Commercial Crew should be fully funded.  And since Congress has no legal limits on how much it can spend on NASA, it can fully fund SLS/Orion at the same time too if it so desires.  Connecting the two is a false choice.
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline Brovane

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Which would be a interesting conversation to play out if both SpaceX and Boeing have demonstrated crew capability and if a down-select occurs to more expensive provider. 
The government of the USA is not known for being an excellent steward of taxpayer's money.

This brings up a interesting scenario.  If both SpaceX and Boeing demonstrate crew capability and Congress tells NASA to down-select to one provider and NASA chooses SpaceX because of lower cost. 
       
Could NASA select the more expensive provider under FAR regulations?  Of course Congress has a habit of doing what they want.  However I suspect that SpaceX would file a protest if it was the cheaper provider by a good margin and both spacecraft were technically equal. 
"Look at that! If anybody ever said, "you'll be sitting in a spacecraft naked with a 134-pound backpack on your knees charging it", I'd have said "Aw, get serious". - John Young - Apollo-16

Offline Coastal Ron

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Could NASA select the more expensive provider under FAR regulations?

Cost is not the only consideration, so yes, they could.  However if both bidders can meet the requirements, even though one meets them at a higher standard, usually price becomes the deciding factor.

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Of course Congress has a habit of doing what they want.

Unless Congress writes up the funding law in such a way that clearly favors Boeing, then NASA gets to make the determination.  And as far as I know, the current Commercial Crew authorization is fairly neutral regarding the service providers.

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However I suspect that SpaceX would file a protest if it was the cheaper provider by a good margin and both spacecraft were technically equal.

I don't know why they wouldn't.
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline Endeavour_01

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As promised here are my thoughts on the SLS/Orion portion of the article Proponent posted.

First of all I must admit that I goofed a little bit. Upon re-reading the specific article I realized that the egregious part I was upset about was from another article that I had been reading at the same time. However, the article Proponent posted does use that articles' logic on costing SLS and Orion.

The article tries to make it look like SLS/Orion are unaffordable. The author makes a point about economies of scale and implies that SLS/Orion are vastly overpriced. There is a problem though when you dig into the numbers. Under current spending SLS/Orion costs about 3 times the CCP program which even the article admits is reasonable.

The article states that the total cost from now until 2021 for SLS/Orion will be $40 Billion vs. a total cost of CCP of around $5.2 Billion. The article then incorrectly states that SLS/Orion will cost 15 times more than CCP when using its own numbers it would cost less than 8 times that. If the author is intending to compare one system with one system (Dragon/Falcon 9 and SLS/Orion) then he also needs to include the costs beyond commercial crew to develop the rocket (Falcon 9/Atlas V) and or preCCP costs to develop the spacecraft (Dragon 1) since he is doing the same for SLS/Orion.

The $40 Billion dollar number for SLS/Orion includes pretty much everything from the CxP days till 2021. Even accepting those numbers (when I run the numbers (including some of CxP) I get less than that by a good amount) you have to consider the time scale. We are talking 15 years of time so in the end this averages out to around $2-$3 Billion a year which is $1-$2 Billion less than the shuttle cost to run per year. Also SLS/Orion have never really gotten the bump in spending needed to lower overall development costs while CCP has (admittedly less than needed). So SLS and Orion are actually an improvement from shuttle while offering far more capability.

Lets not forget that increased capability should matter in the price argument. A scooter costs 10 times less than a new car but the car has far more capability. If price was the only concern everybody would be using scooters.

My last point on this is that while the article goes back to CxP to up the total amount spent on SLS the author ignores a critical fact. We aren't just paying for the CCP, we are also paying for it to have a place to go. ISS costs $3 Billion a year to operate and as the author correctly implies that without a space station CCP would not exist. So if we throw ISS spending into the mix from 2011 to 2021 that puts an extra $30 Billion dollars on the CCP tab.

Personally I support fully funding CCP, ISS, and SLS/Orion. I think that all three are wonderful programs that are worth the money we spend on them each year (which if you check the numbers is around what people spend on dog food each year). I am mad as he-double hockey sticks about CCP not being fully funded. I even think SLS can spare a hundred million or so to help CCP out in its time of need. It just upsets me when people from either "coalition" try their hardest to argue that the other program should canned because it doesn't exactly line up with what they think things "should be." I expect that from politicians but not space enthusiasts.

Best of luck with the quals!

Thanks. I really appreciate your well wishes.  :)
I cheer for both NASA and commercial space. For SLS, Orion, Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy, Dragon, Starliner, Cygnus and all the rest!
I was blessed to see the launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour on STS-99. The launch was beyond amazing. My 8-year old mind was blown. I remember the noise and seeing the exhaust pour out of the shuttle as it lifted off. I remember staring and watching it soar while it was visible in the clear blue sky. It was one of the greatest moments of my life and I will never forget it.

Offline Proponent

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As promised here are my thoughts on the SLS/Orion portion of the article Proponent posted....

I'll defer my reply until after your quals.

When I was preparing for my quals, I decided in advance I would take the last day off.  I figured just having a little fun and relaxing would be a bigger benefit than one additional day of preparation.  But when I woke up on Q-1 day, it occurred to me that there were five things I really could have reviewed in a little more detail.  So, instead of having fun, I nerded out on those.

I would like to be able to say that, in retrospect, I should have just had fun.  But one of those five things turned out to be the very first question I was asked!
« Last Edit: 09/27/2015 02:26 PM by Proponent »

Offline Proponent

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[The text of the piece under discussion is attached for reference.  Skip to the section entitled "SLS, Station, and Commercial Crew: Political Incentives."]

As promised here are my thoughts on the SLS/Orion portion of the article Proponent posted....

The article tries to make it look like SLS/Orion are unaffordable.The author makes a point about economies of scale and implies that SLS/Orion are vastly overpriced. There is a problem though when you dig into the numbers. Under current spending SLS/Orion costs about 3 times the CCP program which even the article admits is reasonable.

The piece never addresses absolute affordability, i.e., whether the ultimate cost of Orion/SLS will be too much to bear or whether funding needs in any one year may be excessive.  What it does say is that a capability equivalent to that of Orion/SLS could be developed much more cheaply through a more commercial approach.  Overall cumulative costs are relevant to this point, but spending in any one year is not.

Quote
The article states that the total cost from now until 2021 for SLS/Orion will be $40 Billion vs. a total cost of CCP of around $5.2 Billion. The article then incorrectly states that SLS/Orion will cost 15 times more than CCP when using its own numbers it would cost less than 8 times that. If the author is intending to compare one system with one system (Dragon/Falcon 9 and SLS/Orion) then he also needs to include the costs beyond commercial crew to develop the rocket (Falcon 9/Atlas V) and or preCCP costs to develop the spacecraft (Dragon 1) since he is doing the same for SLS/Orion.

The $40 Billion dollar number for SLS/Orion includes pretty much everything from the CxP days till 2021. Even accepting those numbers (when I run the numbers (including some of CxP) I get less than that by a good amount) you have to consider the time scale. We are talking 15 years of time so in the end this averages out to around $2-$3 Billion a year which is $1-$2 Billion less than the shuttle cost to run per year. Also SLS/Orion have never really gotten the bump in spending needed to lower overall development costs while CCP has (admittedly less than needed). So SLS and Orion are actually an improvement from shuttle while offering far more capability.

Chris's recent article puts the cost of Orion through first crewed flight at about $17 billion.  Referring directly to the appropriations bills from FY 2011 through FY 2015, one sees a total of $9.4865 billion for SLS.  If appropriations remain at the FY 2015 level of $2.0513 billion through FY 2021, the total spend will be $21.8 billion.  That's without inflating past costs to FY 2015, so the total for SLS is easily over $22 billion.  And that's without reaching back to the CxP era for any of SLS's costs, even though some of them are certainly relevant, e.g., 5-segment SRBs.

The total for Orion and SLS together is then $39 billion or more, which is consistent with the author's claim of "forty billion or so."  And $39 billion apparently excludes much of the cost of Orion's service module, which is being picked up by ESA.  It is true that by the time a crew flies on SLS, some money may well have been spent on EUS, which is not needed for the first flight and might be excluded from a stricly apples-to-apples comparison, but a few billion off the total isn't going to change the picture greatly.

There is also a substantial probability of a delay in the first crewed launch to FY 2023, which will only increase costs.  Commercial crew may be delayed too, but the direct associated costs will accrue to the contractors, not to NASA (unless Congress so under-funds commercial crew that NASA cannot afford milestone payments and is forced to renegotiate at a grave disadvantage).

Nor is $40 billion drastically out of line with the costs of past NASA programs.  Inflated to FY 2015, the Shuttle cost something like $60 billion to first flight.  As I calculated elsewhere recently, the Apollo CSM alone cost close to $40 billion to first manned flight.

For assessing the cost efficiency of different contracting mechanisms, the relevant comparison of SLS is to a single commercial-crew development, not to the entire commercial-crew program.  Hence, the author's choice of the average cost of the two commercial-crew programs is justified, and the cost ratio of 40/2.6 = 15 is approximately correct.

As for not including the cost of developing the launch vehicles on which the commercial-crew vehicles fly, it is true that Boeing and SpaceX wisely chose to obey No. 39 of Akin's Laws of Spacecraft Development:
Quote from: David Akin, then of the University of Maryland's Space Systems Lab
39. (alternate formulation) The three keys to keeping a new manned space program affordable and on schedule:
       1)  No new launch vehicles.
       2)  No new launch vehicles.
       3)  Whatever you do, don't develop any new launch vehicles.
The NASA-Congressional complex that motivates SLS, on the other hand, has been unwilling to consider the possibly of using existing launch vehicles or modest derivatives thereof.  Until such time as an engineering analysis performed by engineers suggests that SLS really is needed or at least desirable, it is perfectly fair to regard the development of SLS as a management choice.  Moreover, if heavy lift truly is necessary, recall that circa 2010 both ULA and SpaceX floated the idea of building heavy lifters for single-digit billions of dollars.  That's not to mention NASA's own cost analysis of Falcon 9, which put the cost of a NASA-developed Falcon 9-equivalent at about four times the cost of the actual vehicle.  Adding launch-vehicle costs would certainly reduce the cost ratio from 15 but would not drastically change the picture.

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Lets not forget that increased capability should matter in the price argument. A scooter costs 10 times less than a new car but the car has far more capability. If price was the only concern everybody would be using scooters.

You, the author and I all agree on this.  His argument is just that the increased capabilities shouldn't cost fifteen times as much:
Quote from: Space Access Society, Space Access Update 147
Yes, SLS/Orion is several times larger than either Commercial Crew system - but that size is supposed to bring economies of scale. Rocket costs typically scale far more strongly with parts count than with size. Twice, even three times the Commercial Crew cost might be reasonable. At fifteen or so times the cost, something's very wrong.

Quote
My last point on this is that while the article goes back to CxP to up the total amount spent on SLS the author ignores a critical fact. We aren't just paying for the CCP, we are also paying for it to have a place to go. ISS costs $3 Billion a year to operate and as the author correctly implies that without a space station CCP would not exist. So if we throw ISS spending into the mix from 2011 to 2021 that puts an extra $30 Billion dollars on the CCP tab.

I'm not following the logic here.  The point is to compare the cost of developing a given capability through a NASA-manged, cost-plus process with that of developing a similar capability through a more commercially-oriented fixed-price approach.  ISS already existed and defined the need for commercial crew.  Since it was officially the plan for a while, we have a decent idea of what the cost of using Orion for ISS logistics would have been.  It's not pretty.  Looking at it from another angle, do you want to add to Orion/SLS's cost of developing all of the in-space stages, modules and landers that will be needed to use it?

By the way, the reason I posted a link to the article was not its take on costs, which we've all seen before, but it's spectacularly gloomy view on the politics driving the fight between Orion/SLS and commercial crew.  If I were going to identify a weakness of the piece, it would be that there is not much reasoning or evidence backing up the author's assertions on the politics of the battle (not that I particularly doubt that he is correct).  That's not to say he's wrong or even that he reasonably could be expected to provide much evidence, but it's a weakness nonetheless.  I see no basis, however for describing the article as a hit piece: it makes a factually-supported argument that the capabilities of the Orion/SLS system could be developed at much lower cost through a program resembling the Commercial Crew Program.

EDIT:  Added missing "What" at the start of the 2nd sentence of my 1st paragraph and fixed a mis-spelling.  Removed name of person authoring Space Access Update 147, because it was merely an assumption on my part.
« Last Edit: 10/13/2015 11:45 AM by Proponent »

Offline woods170

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My last point on this is that while the article goes back to CxP to up the total amount spent on SLS the author ignores a critical fact. We aren't just paying for the CCP, we are also paying for it to have a place to go. ISS costs $3 Billion a year to operate and as the author correctly implies that without a space station CCP would not exist. So if we throw ISS spending into the mix from 2011 to 2021 that puts an extra $30 Billion dollars on the CCP tab.

IMO that is just flat-out wrong.
The only reason that CCP exists today is not because of the existence of ISS, but because STS has been retired. Had the latter not happened, there would have been no CCP today IMO.

The destination already existed. The US was keenly aware of that yet deliberately chose to get rid of their only indigenous means of getting to the ISS. ISS was not created to give CCP something to fly to. Throwing ISS cost on the CCP tab is thus highly illogical (to use some person's favorite term).

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